Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and two city councilors are calling for a citywide minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, $2.60 above the state minimum and more than $1 more than a City Council Finance Committee proposal scheduled for a vote Monday.

The more aggressive proposal comes days after Portland certified a citizen petition that will likely lead to a citywide referendum in November asking voters to approve a $15 hourly minimum, one of the highest in the nation.

Councilor Jon Hinck said in an email that he, along with Brennan and Councilor Justin Costa, will push for an amendment at Monday’s council meeting to establish a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour starting Jan. 1. That’s $1.35 an hour higher than the $8.75 being recommended by the council’s Finance Committee. Maine’s statewide minimum is $7.50 an hour, 25 cents above the federal minimum.

Hinck said the amendment would increase the wage to $10.68 an hour in 2017. Starting in 2018, the mandatory minimum wage would increase on July 1 at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index, which accounts for inflation.

“I am hopeful that the City Council is poised to make a good decision on a minimum wage for our city,” Hinck said in an email that appeared to be sent to his supporters and constituents. “I encourage everyone to be in touch and to attend the council meeting at 7:00 p.m.”

Last week, the Portland Green-Independent Committee submitted enough signatures from registered Portland voters to secure a spot on the November ballot for a citywide minimum wage of $15 an hour.


City Elections Administrator Melissa LaChance said her staff verified the 1,500 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, but at the request of the Greens is continuing to review the remaining petitions to come up with a final count of signatures.

“They have officially hit the minimum requirement,” LaChance said.

Under the city ordinance, the citizen proposal also will go to the council, which can adopt the proposal outright, put it on the ballot or offer a competing measure. The council is all but certain to place the Greens’ proposal on the ballot rather than adopt it.

Hinck said in an interview that he has wanted a minimum wage above $10 an hour. He hopes that by increasing the minimum adopted by the council that residents will be less likely to support the $15 an hour wage being proposed by the Greens.


Although about a dozen American cities have citywide minimum wages higher than their state minimums, Hinck said only Seattle has gone as high as $15 an hour.


“It does seem to me having Portland adopt a minimum wage that has only been put in place in Seattle, and is hotly debated whether it’s working there, may simply be a little too aggressive,” Hinck said. “Who knows? The voters in Portland might come around to thinking that the City Council has done all right if we are at least somewhat bold in moving forward.”

Portland Green Independent Committee Chairman Thomas MacMillan said the council’s vote would send a positive signal to voters.

“I think it sends a great message that Portland workers deserve more than the state minimum,” MacMillan said. “We’re going to take that to November and people will realize we need to have a living wage, not just a higher poverty wage.”

Increasing the minimum wage has emerged as a key political issue for Democrats at the federal, state and local level. President Obama signed an executive order last year that would pay federal employees and contractors a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. He called on Congress to follow suit for all workers, raising the federal minimum from $7.25 an hour.

The Maine House and Senate both voted this year for increases in the state minimum wage, but the effort died because the two chambers could not agree on an amount and a phase-in period.

There is a citizen effort to increase the minimum wage statewide, with the Maine People’s Alliance collecting signatures to get a referendum on the ballot in the fall of 2016 to raise it to $9 an hour in 2017, then by $1 each year until it reaches $12 in 2020.


Brennan first proposed creating a citywide minimum wage that is higher than the state minimum of $7.50 an hour in early 2014, working with a stakeholder group of businesses and residents to develop a proposal for a $9.50 minimum.

His proposal was supported by progressive and pro-labor groups such as the Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Women’s Lobby and the AFL-CIO.


But Portland’s efforts to establish its own minimum wage also have drawn criticism and opposition from some employers and business groups, including the Portland Community Chamber, Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Retailers Association. Opponents say it would create upward pressure on wages even for those earning above the minimum.

The council’s committee voted to pare down the mayor’s proposal from $9.50 an hour to $8.75 an hour out of concern about the impact on businesses.

Gov. Paul LePage has opposed Portland’s proposed minimum wage. He called the city’s proposal unconstitutional and tried to block its efforts by sponsoring a bill that would prohibit municipalities from setting their own wages. The bill was defeated.


The proposals to be debated Monday by the City Council would allow restaurants to pay tipped workers half of the state minimum wage. The exemption helped appease restaurant owners who argued that waiters and waitresses are relatively high earners compared with other employees because of the tip income.

The city proposal does not include an enforcement component, although workers who are not being paid the city’s minimum wage would be able to recoup attorneys fees if they prevail in a civil case.

The Green Party proposal would apply the new city minimum wage to all workers, including tip earners. It would be phased in over time, with larger employers affected first.

The Portland Regional Chamber has said a $15 minimum would be much more costly for city employers than the city proposal. Given the city’s strong job market, many entry-level workers in the city are earning $10 to $12 an hour, the chamber said. The city’s finance committee has estimated that 272 employees make $10 an hour or less.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:


Twitter: randybillings

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